Why Daniele De Rossi Will Be Italy's Most Important Player at World Cup 2014

Colin O'Brien@@ColliOBrienContributor IApril 2, 2013

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND - MARCH 21:  Daniele De Rossi of Italy before the international friendly match between Italy and Brazil on March 21, 2013 in Geneva, Switzerland.  (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
Claudio Villa/Getty Images

Capitan Futuro. It's been Daniele De Rossi's nickname in Rome almost since the first time he pulled on the famous jersey of his hometown club.

But with the ever-green Francesco Totti seemingly set to continue leading the Giallorossi for some time to come, it will be with the Italian national team that Daniele's leadership abilities will surely be tested first.

A born leader with a rare mix of ability, physicality and intelligence, De Rossi is in many ways the perfect midfielder. He'll work, tackle, pass, create, shoot—and he'll lead. Just like he does in the centre of the park for Roma at next summer's World Cup, De Rossi will be the reference point for the rest of the Italy squad. 

Some are quicker or more skillful. He can't pass like Pirlo or dribble through defences like El Shaarawy, but De Rossi's value lays in his completeness and his ability to inspire his fellow players.  

A vocal, often emotional player, De Rossi is the beating heart of every team he plays in. His passion can ignite a wayward teammate like few leaders can, and his energetic, clever play is the sort that managers build systems around.

It might not always look like it, but De Rossi dictates play. He controls tempo. Pirlo might hold up the ball or make the champagne pass, but it was likely the man beside him who ended the opponent's attack or opened up space for him with a driving run. 

Fit, committed, experienced and yet still in his prime, Roma's No.16 will be key to all of Prandelli's plans. The current Italy squad is impressive, but it contains some elements that are injury prone, aging or unpredictable. The manager will be looking to De Rossi to provide stability when the changes come, either through rotation or injury.

All of this is not to slight De Rossi's international companions. There's no doubt that the Azzurri will take one of the world's strongest squads to the World Cup finals in Brazil. But it's a squad with a fair amount of specialists, and De Rossi's speciality is that he's good almost anywhere.

Throughout his career, he's performed well across the pitch. He's defended when asked, and supported strikers too. He'll be the crucial piece that Prandelli can count on to make different selections and formations work.

De Rossi will only be 30, and might leave South America with a century of Italy caps. He hasn't featured fewer than 28 times in Serie A since 2004. 

Cesare Prandelli might choose to take the armband from Gianluigi Buffon, and he might not. But one thing is certain: if Italy are going to perform in Brazil at the World Cup, De Rossi will be at the very heart of it.